While the island of Cyprus is often remembered as the home region of the apostle Barnabas during the time of the New Testament (Acts 11:19-20), its history intermingles with Israel’s at least as far back as the time of the Exodus, though mostly indirectly. Cyprus was located about 165 miles northwest of Israel, and in ancient times it was covered with forests. It was also abundant in copper, silver, iron, various minerals, wine, oil, and grain and became famous throughout the Near East for these prized resources. A contingent of Mycenaean Greeks inhabited Cyprus by 1400 B.C., and later the island received a larger wave of Greek settlers after Mycenaean culture collapsed in Greece. Cyprus maintained close contacts with cities on the mainland that lay to the north and to the east of the island, but its direct contact with Israel was limited during the Old Testament, perhaps because of Israel’s limited interest in sea travel and trade. The island, or perhaps certain cities such as Kition, are referred in the Old Testament by the names Elishah and Kittim (Genesis 10:4; Numbers 24:24; 1 Chronicles 1:7; Isaiah 23:1-12; Jeremiah 2:10; Ezekiel 27:6; Daniel 11:30). Eventually the island came under the rule of Assyria and was later controlled by Egypt during the Babylonian era. As with rest of the Near East it was then subsumed into the mighty Persian Empire until Alexander the Great, after which it came under the rule of the Ptolemaic Empire. In A.D. 58 Rome acquired Cyprus and established it as a Roman province. They divided the island into four districts, which were named after the primary town in each district: Salamis, Paphos, Amathus, and Lapethos. As mentioned earlier, the apostle Barnabas (and perhaps his relative John Mark) was from the island of Cyprus (Acts 11:19-20), and when Paul set out with him on the first missionary journey, they went first to Cyprus (Acts 13). Later Barnabas parted ways with Paul and returned to Cyprus with John Mark, presumeably on another missionary journey (Acts 15).

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